“As [Jesus] said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him,
‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!’
But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’”
There is intentionality here, in following Christ. It is not a relationship grounded on vague terms or an automatic intuition telling us what is “right.” The Spirit of God does lead us rightly – but we must be able to recognize that leading. Christ saves us. His Spirit transforms. But there is still action for us as well, flowing out of that.
We are to love the Word of God. To treasure it. To study it and keep it before our eyes. Because this Word is Him. It is truth. It reveals to us who He is through His spoken words, His promises, and the recounting of Jesus’ life on earth. It details for us what it is to live in freedom. To walk in light.
If all we do in our daily lives is rely on a sense of rightness in ourselves, we are left extremely vulnerable to deception. There are a lot of voices that will readily offer opinions and perspectives and justifications on every side. And on our own, we will likely go for the one that makes the most sense to us, the one our understanding can grasp, or the one that fits whatever answer we want to hear.
The only way to clearly recognize the voice of the Lord is to hear His Word and keep it. To intentionally press in. Not just on one given day where you want an answer fast; this is a developed, daily life choice. The more consistently and determinedly you press into Christ, the more clearly you will know His voice at a word. He is your Shepherd, and you will recognize Him—if you are listening.
To do otherwise leaves us weak and unguarded. Easily swayed perhaps without realizing it. And we forget the love for Christ we had before.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love…These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:4,9-11).
It is for our joy. Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it, because the joy of Christ is theirs. To abide in Jesus, we must know Him as He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures, because His presence and guidance in our lives will never contradict His Word. And to abide in His love, He tells us the first step: keeping His commandments. So we must know what they are. It isn’t that keeping His commandments earns His love. It’s that His love flows through them. Our Lord’s heart is poured out in these commands. They have purpose: our freedom, our joy, and His glory as we reflect His light. If we reject or ignore or don’t take time to even know His commandments, we are tossing aside His love and saying it doesn’t matter enough for us to spend the time or energy.
And in this rejection, we miss out. We choose our very limited understanding. And darkness begins (or continues) to shadow our path.
We might feel free for a time, but it is only because we refuse to see the hindrances building up between us and the God who is the source of our light, strength, and hope. There might be moments of happiness, but it shifts with our circumstances and we miss the fullness of what true, pure joy can be.
“By this we know that we are children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been borne of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:2-4).
I love the pointed statement of these verses that the commandments of God are not burdensome. It flies in the face of what the world, our fallen sin nature, and the enemy who desires our destruction would have us believe. James 1:25 is similar in that way: “the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” The law, the commandments of God, are not burdensome. They are liberty. Persevering brings victory for us. It will be hard at times, yes. There might be a measure of loss in some ways. But it will not compare with what we gain in our obedience: Christ. And with Christ, freedom and joy and light. And the blessing of God Most High, through which losses will be restored in His perfect wisdom and goodness (Mark 10:29-30).
So let us live out our faith that our Lord is wise and good and perfect. Let us press into His Word, the unfolding of which brings light (Psalm 119:130). Let us listen intently with a humble openness to how His Spirit will speak and guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Because our God is love, and His law is liberty, and His Word is truth—and walking in the light of this truth, we find freedom.